Menendez to Recognize #MeToo Movement at SOTU; Announces Anti-Sexual Assault Advocate as SOTU Guest

Menendez to Recognize #MeToo Movement at SOTU; Announces Anti-Sexual Assault Advocate as SOTU Guest

NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today announced that his guest to this year’s State of the Union Address will be Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the NJ Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA).  The senator and Ms. Teffenhart will each wear black in recognition of the growing #MeToo movement raising awareness and in support of victims of sexual harassment at assault.

“In recent months, the #MeToo movement has encouraged women across the country to stand up, speak out and proclaim that ‘enough is enough,’” said Sen. Menendez.  “I am honored that Patricia Teffenhart, one of New Jersey’s leading advocates for women’s and victims’ rights, has agreed to be my guest for the State of the Union.  Having partnered with Patricia on a number of initiatives, I have seen firsthand her dedication to advocating for women and being a voice to the voiceless.  Throughout her entire life, Patricia has been a dedicated champion for women across the state of New Jersey.  From beginning her career assisting women with HIV/AIDS, to advancing health programs for Latinas, and now working to create a culture that addresses the pervasive nature of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and at home, Patricia has never shied away from empowering women of all backgrounds.”

“As this national reckoning around the impact and prevalence of sexual violence escalates, it is increasingly apparent that survivor voices need to be heard and honored in the shaping of our policies,” said Teffenhart. “I am proud and honored to attend the State of the Union with Senator Menendez--a champion for women and for victims’ rights--and I humbly do so on behalf of the nearly 2 million survivors of sexual violence who call the Garden State their home and the community-based agencies that provide the critical services they need and deserve.”

After graduating from Douglass College, the women’s college of Rutgers University, Teffenhart went on to work for New Jersey Women and AIDS Network (NJWAN) where she focused on providing critical health information to women living with AIDS. She then went on to become the Director of Regional Programs for the National Latina Health Network where she advanced the national health promotion infrastructure in support of Latinas and their families. Teffenhart was also an honoree at Sen. Menendez’s 2017 Women’s History Month Celebration for her dedication to promoting sexual violence awareness.

Sen. Menendez has long advocated for the rights of women and has been the prime sponsor in each of the past five Congresses of the Equal Rights Amendment to U.S. Constitution, prohibiting discrimination against women.  He has also cosponsored a separate resolution that would remove the deadline for ratification of the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment and allow three more states to ratify and make it law.

Sen. Menendez cosponsored the 1993 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) when he was serving in the House of Representatives and has consistently supported reauthorization and funding for VAWA programs, which has been credited for a 63% drop in sexual assault since the law was passed.  He also cosponsored the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE Act) that was passed as part of the last VAWA five-year reauthorization in 2013 and addressed the problem of sexual violence on college campuses by requiring colleges and universities to clearly outline their policies regarding sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. 

Sen. Menendez is an original cosponsor of the Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act that would prohibit housing discrimination against survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault.  In November, he joined other original cosponsors in reintroducing the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA).  He cosponsored the Campus Accountability and Safety Act that increased oversight and protection against sexual assaults on college and university campuses, and cosponsored the Pet and Women Safety Act of 2015 that protected the pets of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. 

Additionally, the senator has supported robust federal funding for the Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA) Assistance Programs, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program and the Department of Justice Campus Grant Program.